Postharvest handling and storage technologies for fresh horticultural produce

A.L. Acedo
Fruit and vegetables are high-value, nutritious crops that can provide solutions to economic and food insecurity. However, losses between production and postharvest stages are serious, averaging annually at up to 50% or higher in developing Asian countries. Factors contributing to these losses include the lack of postharvest knowledge, techniques and facilities combined with the perishable nature of fruit and vegetables, the complex and inefficient supply chains, and the hot and humid climates in many Asian countries. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 targets reducing food losses by 50% by 2030, providing impetus for postharvest loss reduction efforts. About half of the current postharvest losses can be prevented with a more efficient supply chain. The saved food can feed about one billion extra people. This can reduce the pressure to raise more food to feed an additional two billion people by 2050. As developing countries integrate into the world economy and global value chains proliferate, postharvest technologies can enable these countries to improve the quality of their horticultural produce in domestic and international markets at competitive price. In Asia, a value chain approach was forged to improve postharvest management of fruit and vegetables, comprising value chain analysis, technology generation and capacity building. Practical postharvest technologies and best practices have been developed and introduced to reduce postharvest losses of fruit and vegetables, particularly for smallholders. These included harvesting, field handling, sorting, washing, sanitizing, modified atmosphere packaging, evaporative cooling, ice cooling and low-cost cold storage techniques. Economic analysis indicated most of these techniques were potentially highly profitable. These postharvest techniques were documented in local languages and disseminated to various stakeholders through trainings and other capacity building programs. Basic to effective mainstreaming of postharvest technologies is for smallholders to organize and collectively deal with markets that should direct production and postharvest efforts. A farm-packhouse-market system has been introduced including financing scheme for farmer groups and cooperatives in three countries for this purpose. The impact of these technological and organizational interventions relative to reducing postharvest losses, increasing and diversifying income sources and promising employment opportunities. Furthermore, there are other postharvest technologies commercially employed in established, export-oriented fruit and vegetable firms, such as ethylene management techniques (e.g., removal with ethylene scrubbers and ethylene inhibition using 1-MCP), insect pest and disease control (slow-release fumigation, hot water treatment, vapour heat treatment), packaging system, controlled atmosphere storage, refrigerated transport and storage, and cold chain. These technologies can be introduced to smallholder groups to capacitate them to engage more competitively with high value markets.
Acedo, A.L. (2019). Postharvest handling and storage technologies for fresh horticultural produce. Acta Hortic. 1245, 93-100
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1245.14
postharvest losses, value chain, fruit, vegetables, postharvest technologies

Acta Horticulturae